A mass march raged against the Israeli terror state—and its imperialist backers in Downing Street—in London on Saturday.
It was the biggest anti-imperialist, anti-war march since the great demonstration against the invasion of Iraq 20 years ago. The Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) said that 300,000 people—twice the number at last weekend’s demonstration—took to the streets. And many involved said it felt even bigger than that.
An hour before the main march moved off, tens of thousands of people were on an impromptu demonstration along Oxford Street to join it.
They had left Tube stations at Oxford Circus and Bond Street and poured out to find thousands of others there. Unfurling banners and raising placards they had made themselves or brought from previous marches, they set off towards Marble Arch chanting pro-Palestine slogans.
In every side street new forces joined in, creating a great mass of people who had taken over the retail centre of the capital.
“We’re here to tell Rishi Sunak he’s an accomplice with murder,” said Huda, a student from west London.
“I was on the march last Saturday and this time I am here with four other people from my course and three more from my family. We all need to be out, and not just on marches.” She added, “It’s not a hidden murder, it’s all announced, it’s all there in the news if you look.”
The protest was a sea of Palestinian flags. In every side street new forces joined in, creating a great mass of people who had taken over the retail centre of the capital. Activists climbed scaffolding to unfurl the Palestinian flags and wave them high. And the mood was angry.
Amira furiously explained that she was out on the streets because “there is a genocide going on”. “The Palestinian people have suffered and have endured,” she said. “Zionism has been used as a justification to brutalise them. But we have to say there is no justification for this.”
Amira added, “This is not a fight between Jews and Muslims, even though the Israeli state will say it is. This is a fight against Zionism.”
Yasmin told Socialist Worker that the size of the protest made her feel less alone. “I’m Palestinian, and this march has made it clear that we are remembered,” she said. “We’ve been fighting for years. And it feels like sometimes our voices weren’t getting heard.
She railed against media pundits who are constantly asking those who are pro-Palestinian whether they support resistance group Hamas. “It’s a distraction,” she said. “It’s a way to try and talk over us. If someone asked me that, I would ask them why attacks by Israeli forces have gone up in the West Bank?”
“Hamas has no power in the West Bank. Palestinians are getting attacked there because this isn’t really about Hamas for the Israeli state. It’s about expelling people from our land.”
Many protesters demanded a ceasefire. But they said peace wouldn’t come through a return to the status quo of colonialism and apartheid. Protester Febi said any peace would require “an end to 75 years of apartheid rule and an end to border walls and fences”.
And Lots of people on the march supported Palestinians’ right to resist. As Febi added, “If you’ve been oppressed for over 70 years, how can you be expected not to fight back? The truth is colonialism has never ended without violence.”
The march came after the Israeli massacre at a hospital in Gaza—and in response over 1,000 health workers marched as a bloc. Health worker Sanna-noor Kham told Socialist Worker she was outraged that the Israeli state was targeting hospitals.
“I was out last week, and it was a priority to be at this one, representing the voices of health workers,” she said.
Salma, a student at St. George’s hospital, added that she’d got involved after being added to a health workers’ group chat. “After this people will feel motivated,” she said. “There is talk of potentially organising a walkout in our hospital.”
Trade unionists from the RMT, UCU, Unite, Unison, and PCS unions joined the trade union bloc. UCU leader Jo Grady and NEU leader Daniel Kebede spoke at the demo.
The demonstration last week opened up new possibilities for solidarity with Palestine—and wider resistance against the government. This week’s larger demonstration opens up even greater potential.
The movement for Palestine is massive—but it has to be bigger still. And the Israelis are carrying out murder and ethnic cleansing in open sight while British politicians offer their cringing support.
Sunak went to the Middle East to line up 100 percent with Israel. Keir Starmer, the leader of what is supposed to be the opposition, urges on the slaughter. During an interview on LBC radio, Starmer was asked whether an Israel siege was “appropriate. Cutting off power, cutting off water?” Starmer responded, “I think that Israel does have that right. It is an ongoing situation.” He then lied about what he said after a huge backlash.
The PSC announced from the stage another national demonstration in London next Saturday. These are urgent times and there’s a new mood of resistance and fightback. Every hour now matters.
Socialists and Palestine campaigners should be:
On the streets every day countering the lies about what’s happening and campaigning for the Palestinians
Planning for walkouts at schools, universities, colleges and workplaces—particularly when Israel launches a ground invasion of Gaza. Some universities have already shown the potential for this with, for example, 1,000 on the Glasgow walkout.
Demand the British government withdraws its military and diplomatic support for Israel and stops all forms of backing.
Pressuring every union leader who doesn’t speak out for Palestine to break their silence and stop their connivance with Israeli terror.
Organise to make the next national demonstrations even bigger.
Emergency meeting in London. As Israel launches a second Nakba… Palestine, resistance and the struggle for freedom. Thursday 26 October @ 7pm, Resource for London, N7 6PA
Tariq Ali, author
Refaat Alareer, Palestinian writer live from Gaza
Richard Boyd Barrett, socialist MP in Ireland
Sophia Beach, anti-Zionist Jewish socialist